URLs du Jour

2020-11-14

[Amazon Link]

  • Philip Greenspun reveals a hoop through which incoming victims at the Massachusetts Bay Colony Institute of Technologickal Arts must jump: Diversity and Inclusion Training for MIT Students. An example query:

    [mind reading required]

    How is Student X supposed to know what Students Y and Z are trying to do in forming friendships? (especially given that everyone is dispersed and interacting only via Zoom) The student is also supposed to know what 1,000+ classmates value:

    The question in that case is "My classmates value a diverse, inclusive, and equitable school community." Apparently MIT assumes either the test-takers have diligently discussed such issues with their peers, or have mind reading powers.

    I assume most MIT folks are smart enough to (1) pass this gauntlet with flying colors; (2) take it with all the seriousness it deserves; and (3) not get overly upset at the fact that MIT is paying a bunch of folks big bucks to write this drivel, design the web forms, etc.


  • Jacob Sullum at Reason notes a separation-of-powers champ, SCOTUS Justice Sam Alito Rightly Slams Five Democratic Senators for ‘Bullying’ the Supreme Court.

    In an eyebrow-raising 2019 brief, five Democratic senators warned that the Supreme Court might have to be "restructured" if it failed to reach the conclusion they preferred in a Second Amendment case. Justice Samuel Alito recalled that episode during his Federalist Society speech last night, saying the senators had engaged in blatant "bullying" by issuing "a crude threat" aimed at undermining judicial independence.

    Alito is right. The case involved New York City's uniquely onerous restrictions on the transportation of firearms, and the senators—Sheldon Whitehouse (D–R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D–Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.), Dick Durbin (D–Ill.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.)—wanted the justices to decide (as they ultimately did) that mid-litigation revisions to those rules made the case moot. But instead of simply presenting legal arguments in favor of that outcome, Whitehouse et al. launched an attack on the Court's integrity, accusing the justices of perverting the law to protect "interests important to the big funders, corporate influencers, and political base of the Republican Party." The evidence they presented consisted of cases in which the Court had reached conclusions they did not like.

    Norm-trashing: not just for Republicans any more.


  • But maybe, unlike Senator-Elect Tommy Tuberville, those Democrat senators might be able to correctly list three branches of the Federal Government.


  • Via the Daily Wire: Nikki Haley Rips Twitter For Flagging Her While Leaving Iranian Leader’s Holocaust Denial Untouched. And she did it in a tweet:

    Twitter is garbage. But can I cast my vote President in the 2024 election right now?


  • Sharyl Attkisson writes eloquently in the Hill: Election suspicion is a result of simmering distrust in our institutions.

    Amid the dueling claims and information chaos in the wake of Election Day 2020, we’re seeing the consequence of the loss of faith in our basic institutions by at least half of the American public. These Americans have seen stark, specific examples in recent years of how justice is not equally applied. 

    They have watched as some federal agents and officials of the intelligence community, who should be helping to protect us and to uphold the laws, instead have embarked upon propaganda campaigns and operations that involved committing shocking violations and potential crimes, such as conducting illegal spying, filing improper wiretap applications, unmasking the protected names of innocent U.S. citizens, engaging in illegal leaks of confidential or classified information, and destroying evidence and documents. These lapses didn’t just happen during the 2016 presidential election; there is evidence they have been going on for years, unmitigated.

    when both sides view every day as a "Flight 93" occasion, it's not surprising that corners are cut, excuses made, and "news" coverage slanted. (I'm not sure if Ms. Attkisson mentioned the weaponized IRS. I'll try to get her new book to see.)


  • David R. Henderson watched the new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma and deems it No Fair Trial For Big Tech.

    Throughout the ninety-four-minute movie, various commentators argue that social media have done great harm. In every case but one, the commentators criticize social media, warning us of its many harms. The movie states quite prominently, without exception, the credentials for all the negative commentators, and the credentials are impressive. The main commentator throughout is Tristan Harris, identified as a former design ethicist at Google and also as president of the Center for Humane Technology. Another commentator is Sandy Parakilas, identified as a former platform operations manager at Facebook and a former product manager at Uber. Yet another is Justin Rosenstein, whom the movie identifies as a major player at Google and then Facebook. A fourth is Shoshana Zuboff, an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. That’s not a complete list.

    In the whole movie, only one person expresses skepticism about the idea that manipulation by social media is sui generis. He expresses this view at a panel in which he challenges the aforementioned Tristan Harris. This skeptic points out that newspapers and print media also played on people’s addictions and ability to be influenced. He notes that when television came along, it did so as well, but in different ways. This, according to the skeptic, is just the next thing.

    Here’s what’s most interesting about this skeptic. Only because I’m an economist do I know who he is. “That’s Kevin Murphy,” I said to my wife, who was watching the movie with me. Who’s Kevin Murphy? You wouldn’t know from watching the movie. You had to pay close attention even to know it was Kevin Murphy. I had to pause and rewind and only then did I notice that he had a name card in front of him. Probably not one viewer in fifty notices that, and probably not one viewer in a thousand knows who he is. So let me tell you. Kevin M. Murphy is a star economist at the University of Chicago. He won the John Bates Clark Medal in 1997, given in those days only once every two years to the most outstanding American economist under age forty. He’s the only business school professor ever to win a MacArthur genius award. But the movie tells you none of that.

    Even a doofus like me knows the John Bates Clark Medal is a big deal. I think I'll make one of my rare tweets to point to David's article.